…Just not the one you think.
There’s a lot of talk about Yu Darvish, the Japanese phenom pitcher that has so many MLB teams drooling and so many baseball beat writers frantically throwing rumors around, but we all knew that the Brewers were never interested. So who did the Brew Crew get negotiating rights for?
That would be Yakult Tokyo Swallows star and three-time Japanese batting champion Norichika Aoki.
OK, don’t everybody get excited right away. I know he’s not really a household name – at least not in America – but it should be noted that Aoki is a fantastic ballplayer by both Japanese and International standards. The truth is, the Brewers were lucky to get the rights to talk to him; and it was a process that will cost Milwaukee two and a half million dollars.
The posting fee allowed Milwaukee a 30-day window to negotiate terms with the outfielder, which means if Melvin and Company can’t come to terms with Aoki by January 17th then he reaches the open market. The posting fee only allows the Brewers to negotiate and watch a workout with Aoki, which team officials have said will happen sometime in early January. Doug Melvin said that it will be after the holidays in Phoenix, so that Roenicke and some of his coaching staff can see him work out in person and decide whether or not they want to pursue the 30 year-old lefty. Roenicke and Melvin are containing their excitement right now, but there’s no question that interest is high in Aoki if it takes $2.5 Million just to watch him shag fly balls.
Although the situation is being downplayed, Aoki’s possible signing lines up right around the time that Braun’s appeal of his 50-game suspension would be taking place. It would be nice to have a consistent bat like Aoki’s in place, even if he can’t offer the power that Brauny can. Even if Braun does take the field, Aoki would still be a great addition to an outfield that, outside of number 8, was in dire need of consistency one way or another. Now we all know that Japanese baseball is incredibly different from the American pastime, but anyone who has a .329 career batting average is a guy I want in my lineup. In only five years in Japan, he has already posted nearly 900 hits and a career on-base percentage of .408. He would be a good balancing force in center or even right field and give the Brewer outfield a consistent bat and glove.
The international market is not something that Milwaukee is very involved in. In fact, this would be the very first Japanese import Milwaukee would take directly from the Land of the Rising Sun. It shows me that Milwaukee is committed to finding the best possible chances to win. The Brewers are in a mindset now that they are constantly looking at pieces that can help build a lasting level of success and they aren’t afraid to make a big move when they need it. I can’t tell you if the Brewers will or will not pick up Aoki to be a part of the 2012 squad, but if they do they have just picked up one of the few gems out on the international market right now.